Category Archives: Bill Hemphill
To The Best of My abilities.
Gustav Stickley and the
American Craftsman Movement.
As I sit typing this from my own “stickley” Table, Lets discuss his influence on American culture and Furniture. Many people are familiar with the term “Craftsman” it invokes of bungalows and Historic neighborhoods, or maybe “Sears craftsman” But, how exactly did it become a movement in Art, Architecture, Design? One so ingrained in American society to be easily recognizable?
One man did much of the heavy lifting, borrowing from Morris’ British “Arts and Crafts” , Gustav Sickley designed and built fine furniture made by men, not machines. It was intentionally simple, the beauty was in the honesty of materials and joinery. the complexity in the materials and methods, not in “False adornment”. It was real, solid wood, with quality joinery and functional designs.
Stickley was also responsible for the publication of the iconic “American Craftsman” magazine which along with discussions on the current methods of wood and steel working, design trends and trade discussions. It also featured heavy political discussions of the day, he published works by Anarchist, Socialists and Libertarians. He saw a worker, as a craftsman who created a value and a beauty to society.
As Stickley was so am I committed to the honesty, and natural beauty of the materials, designs and workmanship. To Truly become an American Craftsman…Life is so short, the craft so long to learn…
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia to fill in the blanks…
Stickley’s new furniture reflected his ideals of simplicity, honesty in construction, and truth to materials. Unadorned, plain surfaces were enlivened by the careful application of colorants so as not to obscure the grain of the wood and mortise and tenon joinery was exposed to emphasize the structural qualities of the works. Hammered metal hardware, in armor-bright polished iron or patinated copper emphasized the handmade qualities of furniture which was fabricated using both handworking techniques and modern woodworking machinery within Stickley’s Eastwood, New York, factory (now a part of Syracuse, New York). Dyed leather, canvas, terry cloth and other upholstery materials complemented the designs.
Those ideals – simplicity, honesty, truth – were reflected in his trademark, which includes the Flemish phrase Als Ik Kan inside a joiner’s compass. The phrase is generally translated ‘to the best of my ability.’
His firm’s work, both nostalgic in its evocation of handicraft and the pre-industrial era and proto-modern in its functional simplicity, was popularly referred to as being in the Mission style, though Stickley despised the term as misleading. In 1903 he changed the name of his company again, to the Craftsman Workshops, and began a concerted effort to market his works – by then including furniture as well as textiles, lighting, and metalwork – as Craftsman products. Ultimately, over 100 retailers across the United States represented the Craftsman Workshops.
Good Wood Hunting!
Looking for the perfect piece, searching for the perfect piece…
Finding the right wood, whether looking through a dumpster, a wood pile, or some freshly sliced timber — knowing what you are looking at is an art.
Identifying the species, age, growth pattern — is it Dry? Cured? Kilned? Is it an “Old Growth” tree or Urban Forested?
Three main ways I get wood.
Urban forested: These are yard trees cut down or blown down, which are milled into useable slabs. Usually has one or both live edges.
Walnut For Barrio Gran Reserva
Assorted woods and wood shopping.
Urban Foraged: Wood found in dumpsters, ally ways, or curbside.
With all the remodels in historic neighborhoods If you are careful you can find some real “Old growth” treasures.
Dumpster score with Miss Bane in Coronado.
In short I use many methods to get the woods I use, but I want them all to be as beautiful and sustainable as possible. Knowing what is useful, what is not, what is firewood, what will not burn.
This entire show was found wood.
Reclaimed: Found in yards, or online purchased, maybe even from a “barn wood store”
This wood is usually old, either a demolished building, or someone was storing it for quite some time.
Green Goddess house of herbs was all reclaimed wood from a Bar in New River.
Old growth Fir “found”
Kitchen and bridge in Ghent, NY made of wood found on site.
Grand Avenue Pizza Again…
Carson Wheeler, Friend, Pizza maker, and Wood Connoisseur…
The premise was simple “A contemporary twist on a picnic table”. So, we started with two giant slabs of Himalayan Cedar…
Then I cut one slab in half to make the benches, leaving the second slab intact for the top…
Next comes the all too familiar X frames with a steel 30-degree take on an old classic.
And Carson was happy… The End.
My Story part 1
This week I will start off with something new, something difficult. I will tell my story. In pieces. Kinda like Tarantino it a bit.
Without them I would not be doing what I do today, Building beautiful, sustainable furniture.
Phoenix Public Market
Lets start at the Phoenix Public Market where I learned the importance of sustainability while helping set up “The Community Exchange Table”. In between checking in/out the produce of local gardeners, small farmers, urban foragers etc., we dug into Permaculture, Sustainability and Community at its very core, and explored how everything we did impacted our environment. Both good and bad.
The burgeoning Coronado neighborhood as community was growing, so were connections, opportunity, and idea. I had stumbled on this gem of a neighborhood while registering people to vote in 2004, only to return in late ’07 and buy a house. A beautiful neighborhood just outside downtown Phoenix proper, where neighbors are friends and community is strong. With lots of new homes being remodeled I would bike through the alleyways foraging for wood and steel, I would “dumpster dive” and find beautiful hard woods. I even found the Stickley Table that is now in my own living room.
While volunteering on an art installation at the Shemer Art Center, I connected with a wonderful man I call “yoda”. Yoda and Julia had an amazing art space on 16th street or as we call it “Calle 16”. In early 2013 Yoda invited me for a sort of residency where I would tend a Cactus nursery and build some things out of my dumpster scores. It was a 20’x30′ space that had formerly been the parking lot: no roof, no shade, just an endless supply of time and creativity. This would be know as “My Chaos” or officially as Zoo Micro Nursery. Which is where my story begins. 2013 The Hive
Tiny Tables Series 5
I am very proud to present Tiny Tables Series 5. William Morris said,”Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” and I believe Series 5 fits the bill for both.
Series 5 represents natural beauty, rebirth, and hope. Its construction is based on a butterfly sculpture I have been working on, and the legs mirror the angles I use for wings. Combined with all repurposed materials, Series 5 will be recreated over-and-over using a variety of materials while keeping the design the same.
Series 5 #1 and #3 feature removable X-ray cartridge tops as well as a handmade adjustor and walnut feet.
Dimensions 11″ x 13″ x 20″ // Price $113
Series 5 #2 has a reclaimed steel top, eye bolt adjustor.
Dimensions 14″ x 14″ x 21″ // Price $113
“Tiny Tables Series 5— Own Something Beautiful”
Tiny Tables: Beautiful, Simple and Useful.
One of my favorite things about making each piece individually by hand is how different and unique each piece really is. From the materials I am using, to the way I feel, and the designs that are in my head. Each piece is a truly unique experience, and a great way to watch the evolution is through the tiny tables. Let’s look back at the evolution of tiny tables.
These are from the first series of Tiny Tables. Under the ZOO name, this was an original set of ten, built at The Hive Phoenix. Do you have one?
Series two Tiny Tables were slightly larger due to the barn wood I was using at the time. All steel was “Urban Foraged”. There were originally five in this series, made under the ZOO label, and built at the Hive Phoenix. Do you have one?
Series three was similar to series one, but were numbered 1-12.
Series four tiny tables were the first under the new ‘Industrial Craftsman Furniture” label, featured a stenciled W on the bottom and were part of a full collection called “Industrial Revolution”. There were 3 of each piece in this collection, the first collection built at “the cottages”…
This series included 5 pieces and were cut offs from the patio tables I did for the Tempe Buttes Marriott. They were built at the cottages and were the first to feature a carved-W signature instead of spray paint stencilled.
Two Tiny tables and a saw blade table I built In Ghent NY.
As you can see, over time my style has developed and changed. There are many more “Tiny tables” out there but I do not always get/keep photos. Do you have one? Post a photo.
Spring is a wonderful time in NY, the weather warms up, the flowers bloom…and stuff gets built.
Rhinebeck is an adorable hamlet on the Hudson river about an hour and a half north of the city, it features colonial and gothic architecture, cute, bustling shops and an amazing Pilates studio.
I had the privilege of building the front desk for said amazing studio, in this charmed hamlet. It started with locally sourced, spalted Maple that was beautifully figured and had dark lines of “spalting”. Then, I added some birch Plywood to match the existing furniture. The final step was creating a “charging station” where students could leave their cell phones, while escaping into the Pilates peace of mind.